Hybrid Learning Model

hybrid modelBeginning November 16th, all secondary schools at the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board (SMCDSB) will move to a Hybrid Learning Model.

Elementary schools at SMCDSB will not be moving to the hybrid model this year. The Simcoe Muskoka Virtual Elementary School (SMCVSE) will remain intact with its current complement of students and staff.

Please see the resources below for additional information on our transition to the hybrid model:

First Week of Hybrid Learning at Secondary Schools (November 13-20)
Letter from the Director - Secondary Hybrid Model - November 7
Letter from the Director - Elementary Hybrid Model Update - November 8
Expectations for Secondary Hybrid Learning
Elementary Hybrid Learning Update - November 26

We've also developed a list of frequently asked questions to help you better understand the transition to this new model.

Secondary Hybrid Model FAQ

What is a Hybrid Model?

The hybrid model will replace the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic Virtual Secondary School. The new hybrid model blends face-to-face learners with virtual learners in the same class under the direction of the home-school classroom teacher. For example, if a classroom has 25 students, there may be 20 students learning in-class, and 5 students learning virtually.

Why is virtual learning at SMCDSB now changing to the hybrid model?

There are many reasons why we must make this move to the hybrid model: 

  • It will enable our families the flexibility to easily transition between face-to-face and in-class learning; 
  • It will provide much-needed stability and sustainability until the end of June and beyond which will limit more changes and disruptions;
  • It will allow us to respond quickly to Health Unit or Ministry of Education directives in the case of partial or full school closures;

  • We know that other boards have successfully implemented this model at the secondary level and it has relieved many pressure points and has provided stability for the secondary system;

  • Due to a number of pressures within the virtual secondary school environment, we simply would not be able to provide all of our students with the range of courses they need to complete their post-secondary pathway. Moving to this hybrid model will allow us to provide a wider range of course selections, which we know is critically important as students prepare for their post-secondary future.

What are the benefits of moving to a hybrid model?

A hybrid learning model offers many benefits to students and families:
  • Students will have deeper connections with their home school and more interactions with their friends

  • Consistency and continuity of learning for all students regardless of whether they are learning in-class or virtually
  • Greater opportunities to adjust class sizes for increased physical distancing in classrooms

  • Much easier to accommodate parent requests to switch from virtual to in-class and vice-versa

  • Easier transition for students who move from in-class to remote learning or vice-versa throughout the school year

  • Students with special education needs will have better access to school-based support

  • Ability to quickly pivot if the Board is required to move to a partial or full closure due to rising COVID cases

Can my child change easily between face-to-face and virtual learning?

Although the hybrid model provides greater flexibility, we are requesting that all families  make a firm commitment to either virtual or in-class learning. Requests for a change from one mode of delivery to the other must be made in writing in consultation with the classroom teacher and with approval of the school principal.

Will moving to a hybrid model be beneficial for students with special education needs?

Yes. Moving to a hybrid model will help schools deliver special education services and has many benefits including:

  • Increased ability to collaborate efficiently in the development of comprehensive Individual Education Plans (IEP’s)

  • Effective communication is essential in supporting students with special education needs.  Home school special education teams can leverage existing relationships with parents as they develop and execute IEP goals.  The current virtual school model created barriers to this communication pathway.

  • Referrals to special education services are facilitated by the homeschool special education team.  This includes academic screening, assessments, school-based rehabilitation services, assistive technology training, hearing and vision supports and SEA claims.  With all virtual students being reassigned to their home school, these referrals can be completed effectively and in a timely manner.

  • Students with exceptionalities need to have their Identification and Placement (IPRC) completed each year.  All pertinent information for students is stored in their Ontario Student Record (OSR) in their home school.  With all virtual students being reassigned to their home school, school based IPRC teams can complete these reviews effectively without the need to liaise with virtual school staff.

  • In the current virtual school model, the teachers often had to consult Special Education Resource Teachers (SERTs)  from multiple school sites.  In the hybrid model, teachers will have one point of contact for their entire class.

What will happen to the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic Virtual Secondary School (SMCVSS)?

There will no longer be a virtual secondary school. The new hybrid model will replace the need for the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic Virtual Secondary School (SMCVSS).

When will the hybrid learning model begin?

The hybrid model will be implemented in all of our secondary schools beginning November 13th.

Please see the First Week of Secondary Hybrid Learning Schedule for more information on what face-to-face and virtual learners will be doing the week of November 13-20.

For the first week of classes, there will be different expectations for both our face-to-face and virtual learners so that we can gradually transition to our new model.

Please note: During this first week there will be days in which your child will not be required to attend class but will be required to complete course work at home. However, students who require full-time Educational Assistant support on a daily basis to attend school will continue in the face-to-face model.

This phased-in approach will not be used during period 2 the following week, since staff and students will have already had the opportunity to adapt to the hybrid learning model.

Will class sizes be smaller?

In the hybrid model, the classroom will include both in-class students and virtual learners. All students, regardless of how they are learning, will be taught by the same classroom teacher. For example, if there are 25 students in the class, 20 may be doing face-to-face learning, while 5 are learning virtually. 

Class sizes i.e., the number of students the teacher is teaching, will not necessarily be smaller. However, the number of students who are physically in the classroom will fluctuate throughout the year depending on how many students are learning virtually versus in-class. We anticipate that there will be greater opportunities for physical distancing under the hybrid model.

When will timetables be provided?

 Timetables will be shared with students by Friday, November 13.

How will you track student attendance?

If a student will not be attending school, parents/guardians must still contact their home school to let the office know of the absence. Regardless of how the student is learning (in-class or virtual), the school must still be notified in order to ensure safe arrival and maintain attendance records.

Are other school boards in Ontario implementing the hybrid model of virtual learning?

Yes. Many other school boards in Ontario have already successfully moved away from a virtual school model in favour of a hybrid model. Many other school boards are also moving in a similar direction.

What are the technology or behaviour expectations?

Students, staff and families will be provided with a revised version of the Board’s Responsible Use of Technology Policy - LE-25. In addition, students and staff will receive explicit expectations around appropriate behaviour, dress codes and acceptable use of information and communication technology. Details about these expectations will be clearly communicated as part of the phased-in rollout of the hybrid model during the week on November 16th.


How will virtual students access learning from the classroom?

Brightspace will continue to be the platform for our virtual learning students. We will also be integrating a video conferencing program directly into Brightspace so that all necessary resources and tools will be in one central place. This will be a secure meeting place and will be easily accessible for students by using Brightspace sign-in credentials.

My child is doing virtual learning but doesn’t have a device. Can the Board provide technology for us to use?

We understand that some students may not have access to devices for virtual learning. We will continue to work on securing additional technology resources to make this transition as successful as possible. However, it is important to note that a global supply shortage of technological devices is resulting in some delays with procurement and delivery.

If my child is required to stay home or cannot attend school, can he/she join the virtual classroom?

Yes. We know that unexpected situations can arise, which may prevent students from being able to attend school. One of the benefits of the hybrid model is the flexibility to easily move between in-class and virtual learning. 

If your child cannot attend school (e.g., due to COVID-19 symptoms or a requirement to self-isolate), but is still able to participate in classroom learning, he/she may login virtually and continue learning from home.


What are you doing to ensure privacy and security?

In-class and virtual students will be using Brightspace and video conferencing to connect with the teacher and other classmates, as well as using technology to complete classwork.

The privacy of students and staff is a key priority. We will be making changes to our Responsible Use of Technology Agreement for Students and privacy policies to reflect changes related to the new hybrid model.

On occasion, there may be events and activities during the school year that involve photos or video. The use of photos/videos is established based on parent/guardian consent. Please ensure that a Student Photo and Video Consent Form is on file at your child’s home school.